Neural transplantation is an experimental therapy for Parkinson's disease. Pretreatment of fetal donor tissue with neurotrophic factors may improve survival of grafted dopaminergic neurons. Free-floating roller tube cultures of fetal rat ventral mesencephalon were treated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), or a combination of both. Dopamine content of the culture medium, the number of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons, and culture volumes were moderately increased in the BDNF- and GDNF-treated cultures but significantly increased by 6.8-, 3.2- and 2.4- fold, respectively after treatment with the combination of both factors. We conclude that pretreatment of dopaminergic tissue in culture with a combination of BDNF and GDNF may be an effective means to improve the quality of tissue prior to grafting.